Maybe you were an introverted city kid; a kid from the ‘burbs who can only relate to people online; or, like me, a kid in a cow town with no sidewalks stuck inside most of the time. Time ‘n’ Place is probably relatable to all of these experiences, but I get the impression that Sarah Bonito’s teenage years were about the same as mine. I mean I literally could’ve written “Dump” because I used to go to the town dump for my parents every Saturday and that hazy feeling of seeing people you vaguely know toss a bunch of shit they don’t need is…specific.
However, throughout the album, Bonito deals with the impasse of spending most of your time indoors, wondering about the city, maybe finding oneself online, or imagining that future when you’re finally surrounded by emotional supportive friends who share your interests and working at your dream job. Then, of course, there’s the dreaded idea of finding a balance between being the person you are at home around people at school and finding a way to disappear into the ether of high school. Time ‘n’ Place doesn’t completely erase the extreme take on buoyant joy of the band’s past, but the group finds an ounce of anxiety with every feeling of bliss as they grow up sonically and emotionally.
Kero Kero Bonito is a wild pop outfit that’s been gradually growing into a real band over the course of the past five years or so. Their first “hit” was called Flamingo, an absurdly camp-minded song about being whatever color you want even though all flamingos are pink? It seemingly came out of no where, but the band nonetheless rode the PC music hype to somewhat of a real platform for the release of 2016’s Bonito Generation, a continuation of the camp spirit of the band’s early singles, but with a near-violent approach to pop music–standout “Trampoline” jolts into a chorus as if Death Grips produced the next Carly Rae Jepsen single.
Overall, it’s probably good that Kane West [sic] and wharfwhit have picked up drums and guitars to bring the band in a new direction as the band’s older material might be just an ounce to immature for lasting appeal. Look at SOPHIE, her old material is interesting and super important for the development of her brand of music, but the heart wrenching stuff of “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides” is really what makes her undeniably important and everlasting. Still, the band retains enough child-like awe for its own good and should appeal to the day one fans.
Take single “Make Believe,” for instance. Ostentatiously a song about day dreaming, the blissed out sound is basically prototypical KKB, but the lyricism brings in a new darkness as the make believing can only last so long because real life will get in the way. Bonito eventually comes to the conclusion that her escapist fantasies will never come to fruition in the way she thought the might as a young child, but they’re nonetheless a healthy way to deal with the monotony of every day life.
“Only Acting” sees the band embracing another requirement of the indoor quasi-suburbs existence–listening to Weezer. That guitar solo, that key change–these things are happy as can be until it all comes crashing down in the disintegrated no-wave of the end of the song. These lyrics are likely the band’s best to date. At the surface, there’s the idea of being in theater and needing to manufacture a specific set of emotions. As a young teen, especially, this can be difficult as you don’t even really understand all of these emotions in the first place. Then, there’s the backdrop of suburbia. Here, you’re forced to embody a specific box and although you may believe that you’re just putting on a face to avoid discrimination in the anti-judgement free zone of your hometown, you also wonder if these limitations will become permanent and you’ll never truly express yourself. With the way the song comes crashing down, this terror is made visceral and literal, a true highlight of the new era of KKB.
Elsewhere, the band breaks the fourth wall a bit to open discussion between Sarah today and Sarah of yesterday on “Dear Future Self;” embraces communal despair with what sounds like classroom instruments for “Sometimes;” and again punches my childhood experience in the face with the freedom found in “Swimming.” (Something very freeing about water IDK).
I’m sure I’m projecting a lot, but whether or not Time ‘n’ Place relates exactly to one’s childhood experience, the nuanced songwriting and adventurous take on pop music ought to impress anyone the band hasn’t gotten to yet.